Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on an individuals race, color, religion, sex, disability, and national origin. For employers in California and Missouri, the federal Title VII, ADA and ADEA, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Missouri’s Human Rights Act (HRA) protect employees based on race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, age and sexual orientation.
Discrimination can be categorized into two different groups – disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination. Disparate treatment discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against a single protected class or protected individual. This can occur in the form of discrimination against one single employee or manifest in discrimination against a group of employees. For example, if an employer laid off all employees over the age of 40, or only promoted male employees, these instances would be categorized as disparate treatment discrimination.
Disparate impact discrimination occurs when an employers policies, as a matter of statistics, have a greater impact on one protected group than on another. An example of this form of discrimination would be if an employer required that all newly hired laborers have a high school diploma from a high school located in the United States. Such a policy might prevent people from certain national origins (such as immigrants) from obtaining employment, creating an unintentional, but still unlawful, discrimination.
Discrimination can come in many shapes and is not always overt. For example, an employer may be accused of gender discrimination if the employer asks a woman about her desire to have children, even if the comment seems innocent. It is often perceived by employees that women are passed over for jobs because they represent a risk of paid time off for pregnancy or may leave more frequently to attend to childcare needs. Asking about children in a job interview, for example, is a quick way for an employer to get sued. Employers should be aware that wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuits occur often, still, and that they do not just involve blatant racism as their core allegations.
California employers should not be surprised that California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act is more favorable to employees than the federal discrimination laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The FEHA has more favorable damage provisions and one-way attorney fee provisions (meaning that prevailing employees get attorneys’ fees, but often prevailing employers do not). The FEHA also gives an employee a greater period of time to file their lawsuit than Federal laws, after they receive their Right-to-Sue Letter from the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing, than the time given by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after they issue a Right-to-Sue Letter for federal court.
Finally, depending on the law, employers with as few as five employees, are responsible for anti-discrimination law compliance. And the number of laws that apply increase as the employer reaches employee thresholds of 15, 35 and 50 employees. Human Rights lawsuits are not just for big businesses.
Employers should consider Bellatrix PC’s Employer Protection Package to ensure compliance, avoid risky practices and defend against liabilities before they become serious problems. Contact us today to apply.
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